A cancer diagnosis can bring out the best in people – just ask those who know Jaclyn Foutz. A dear friend’s illness led to finding a creative way to harness the power of the Internet to deal with the financial costs of a health crisis. Jaclyn’s compassion for her friend is now making a difference for many families.
In early 2008, Jaclyn learned that a longtime friend, who lived 1,500 miles away, had a rare form of cervical cancer. Kindra McLennan had been her roommate and sorority sister at the University of Arizona. Jaclyn went online seeking ways to help Kindra since she couldn’t be with her in person through chemotherapy and radiation. What she found was discouraging – most online suggestions were too local and/or too small in scope.
She therefore did what women have done through the ages – came up with a better way. Jaclyn had family and friends in the wholesale jewelry business. They donated turquoise beads, and then rounded up friends to make and sell necklaces to raise money for Kindra. By doing this in-person and by e-mail they sold 350 necklaces and raised more than $10,000. Incredibly, even complete strangers chipped in to help out because they were inspired by the friend network. As for Kindra, she saw everyone from her best friend to her chemotherapy nurse wearing the necklaces, and said it gave her strong emotional support in addition to the financial support.
Helping One Person Leads To Helping Many Others
Kindra died in January 2009 at the age of 30, just nine months after her cancer diagnosis. The ability to help her dear friend made Jaclyn, and her husband Ryan, want to help others. They did extensive research, but found most fund-raising options didn’t help patients directly during their time of need.
Their research also showed them how much of a financial burden cancer patients face – whether or not they have insurance coverage. Jaclyn says that for breast cancer alone, it’s estimated that out-of-pocket expenditures and lost-income costs for women with insurance coverage averages $1,455.00 per month. The majority of those out-of-pocket costs are related to co-payments, hospitalizations and specialist visits. In many cases the costs can devastate a family - more than fifty percent of all personal bankruptcies filed in the United States are due to medical expenses. These financial burdens also have a strong negative impact on the cancer patient’s need to focus on healing and emotional support during the treatment process.
The insight gained from helping her dear friend led Jaclyn, her husband, her brother-in-law and a family friend to create a service to harness the power of the humanitarian spirit that connects all of us. Their online Human Tribe Project (HTP) enables people to contribute both financial and emotional support to loved ones in crisis situations. It was founded upon the premise that all people belong to a larger Tribe of loved ones and acquaintances, and that this Tribe can be a powerful resource when one of its members faces a personal or health-related crisis. It can be found at www.humantribeproject.com
The need for emotional support and relief from a financial burden, of course, isn’t confined to cancer. HTP can be used to help any person in crisis. In just the first four months of its existence, HTP led to the creation of 65 tribes with nearly 1,000 members. That led to $12,000 being gifted to tribe beneficiaries.
HTP differs from many fundraising groups and is not a non-profit organization. Instead of directing money toward research or through a large non-profit requiring extensive administrative and operational costs, one hundred percent of the money gifted through HTP goes directly to individuals in need, at the time of their need.
How It Works
HTP enables people to unite as Tribes and mobilize support quickly and easily through a website the instant that a loved one notifies them of a crisis. A Tribe Leader sets up a Tribe Page, on behalf of the Beneficiary, and includes the Beneficiary’s story and an explanation of why funds need to be raised. The Tribe Leader then unites friends and family by entering in their email addresses, thereby inviting them to join the Tribe.
Tribe Pages are used to keep the Beneficiaries and their Tribes connected. Each Tribe Page contains a blog, a guestbook, moveable web badges and an option to invite others to join the Tribe. Tribe Pages also contain the Tribe Tag Store where Tribe Tags can be purchased to financially support the Beneficiary. You can see the front page of one of the Tribes here:
Each Tribe Page has both semi-public and private portions. The Beneficiary’s blog, guestbook and all posts are private and only viewable by invited Tribe Members. The Beneficiary’s picture and story and the Tribe Tag Store for each Beneficiary are public and viewable only when a person searches the Beneficiary’s name. Allowing these portions to be semi-public maximizes the number of Tribe Tags that can be purchased and thus maximizes the amount of support a Beneficiary can receive.
Building A Legacy for Kendra
Jaclyn’s friend Kendra lost her battle with cancer, causing Jaclyn to leave corporate America to dedicate her life to building a legacy for her friend by facilitating fund raising for others through HTP and other avenues. The Phoenix, Arizona woman had previously worked at the law firm of Gallagher & Kennedy, PA, the United States Senate, the Arizona Supreme Court and Gap, Inc. She received her J.D. from the College of Law at Arizona State University and her B.S.B.A. from the University of Arizona. Jaclyn is also an active volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters and has worked with Crisis Nursery and the Children’s Law Center.
Cancer Hits Home
Launching HTP immersed Jaclyn in the world of cancer. She spoke about this in her blog.” Although we didn’t launch until July 21, 2009, we had been working tirelessly on it since September 2008. At that time, I was coping with my friend’s cancer diagnosis and learning about ways to better support her. Since our launch, I have met many more cancer patients, survivors and caregivers. I am always saddened to hear their stories, hopeful for their recovery and inspired by their courage and optimism. I have also met with health care providers, social workers, administrators, support groups and cancer support organizations to introduce them to Human Tribe Project in the hope that they would pass the information on to those that need it. For someone who has thankfully never been diagnosed with cancer, I am knee deep in the cancer world.”
In October 2009 Jaclyn’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Jaclyn said, “It’s in the very early stages and at this point we believe it’s 100% curable, but it doesn’t change the fear, helplessness and yes, anger, in receiving the diagnosis.” Jaclyn decided to share this very personal information because it shows that she’s no different from any other Tribe member. Today she’s struggling to find ways to support and help her mom through cancer treatment while watching her worry about medical bills, surgery and losing her hair.
Cancer knows no boundaries and can strike anyone. As the Human Tribe Project and Jaclyn’s own family experience shows, we truly are all part of one tribe of human beings who have the ability to help each other in many ways.
To learn more about Jaclyn, and the others who created the Human Tribe Project, please go to http://humantribeproject.com/pages/team